Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On the move

Well, what have we been up to? 

We finally have a car. It took only two mornings for Paul to deliver Luc to school, before announcing that we really ought to have a car. Luc’s school is a 20+ minute walk from home (at a brisk pace with both boys in the stroller). The idea of a three year old walking that distance, trying to get a reluctant student dressed, breakfasted and there by 8am, plus the impending winter (where walking a mere 100 metres can be brutal despite being gloved, hatted, coated, layered and snow-booted), was enough to make a decision for us. That, and a very rare (paid) parking position opening up just near our home. 

When we first arrived in the US, I noted that a VW Jetta might be the right size car for us (medium size, larger than my preferred Golf, European – and therefore suited to snow). After going through all the permeations of car, origin, internal space, and features (everyone steered us away from buying an American car), Paul went to a VW showroom in search of a Passat. He came home nervously suggesting a Jetta that he had found, before realizing that this was the car I had suggested in the first place! He didn’t have to convince me too much.

Last Wednesday I got my driver’s license. All people planning on living in Illinois need to get themselves an Illinois license within 90 days of arriving. Our car insurance wanted us to pay some $200 extra for excluding me from the policy, so there was some degree of urgency! I was not feeling at all prepared and was a little flummoxed by all the information I needed to prepare for the exam…. Let alone driving on the wrong side of the road. 

The examiner at the counter made a big deal of congratulating me for scoring 100% on the written test. I didn’t think the exam was actually too difficult - given it was largely multiple choice, and my initial concern that I didn’t fully remember all the cases for license, suspension, revocation or cancellation or all the various and numerous penalties for DUI… first offense, up to fourth offense - varying by age group, blah, blah, blah.  I did however, notice a large stream of people being informed that they had failed the test and were being given instruction on how they could re-sit the test that day should they want to. The cost of sitting a driving test (including instruction and issue of license) is only $10. I remember it being a costly exercise in Australia (one that you really didn’t want to mess up). 

The driving instructor, who happened to know a little something about Australia, spoke about football (soccer, AFL, Gridiron, Rugby, Union), cricket and baseball the entire driving test… He was still chatting at the end, and hadn’t given me any clue as to whether or not I had passed! I was surprised that no parking component was included as part of the test, to my relief…. but given the high extreme shortage of parking in Chicago, and the need for people to touch park, it did seem a little remiss. 

After we took possession of our car, we travelled out the suburbs and visited the Kohl Children's Museum. This is an excellent indoor resource for children, with a variety of themed rooms / areas for children to be active or involved in imaginary play. Nic loved the car room with a gravity-powered racing track for lego-type cars, a car wash and the outdoor adventure garden. Luc adored the mini Dominick’s Supermarket (like a Safeway), the Potbelly Sandwich shop and the water play area. At the end of our visit, we visited a Pretzel café and Luc made and decorated his own pretzel. It was such fun. We became members of this museum in anticipation of returning sometime soon. 

Photo: Nic running through the prairie grass maze at the Kohl Children’s Museum 

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